Talking tech since 2003

Microsoft has another big problem on its hands: Chromebooks.  You know, those inexpensive laptops manufactured by the likes of Samsung, Acer, and others that run Chrome OS instead of Windows?  They are selling like crazy.  You may remember how we told you over the summer that Chromebooks sales were exploding despite the imploding PC market and now according to new NPD data, Chromebooks accounted for 21 percent of all U.S. commercial notebook sales in 2013 through November, and 10 percent of all computers and tablets. Both shares were up massively from 2012; last year, Chromebooks accounted for an almost-invisible two-tenths of one percent of all computer and tablet sales.  That’s some serious growth in just a year.

Why is the Chromebook taking off?

A big reason why people are attracted to Chromebooks is their low prices, which are possible by cutting out things like super high-resolution displays and using less expensive parts. By using inexpensive graphics chipsets, not including a lot of RAM — often just 2GB, and tightening the belt when it comes to local storage capacity it allows the maker to drop the price significantly, often hundreds of dollars.  And when you pair those spec cutbacks with the fact that the operating system, Chrome OS, running on the computer doesn’t cost manufacturers a penny, well, consumers win.

What’s amazing is that even though these Chromebooks are not nearly as powerful as other Windows-based machines on the market, people still are buying them.  The reason for that is likely because Chrome OS offers one thing and it does a really job at offering it: the Web.  And with access to something like Google Drive or Dropbox you don’t really need a ton of local storage in your computer.  100GB of space on Google Drive costs a mere $5 per month.  One of the major problems with Windows-based “netbooks” was that they didn’t have great performance, this is far from the case with the Chromebooks, because everything you do is web-based you don’t need much computing power (on your end) to have a good experience.

The 11.6-in. Acer C720 Chromebook, first on Amazon’s top-10 list Thursday, costs $199, while the Samsung Chromebook, at No. 2, runs $243. Amazon prices Acer’s 720P Chromebook, No. 7 on the chart, at $300.

amazon-best-selling-laptops
Screenshot courtesy of ComputerWorld.com.

Stephen Baker of NPD pointed out what others had said previously: Chromebooks have capitalized on Microsoft’s stumble with Windows 8. “Tepid Windows PC sales allowed brands with a focus on alternative form factors or operating systems, like Apple and Samsung, to capture significant share of a market traditionally dominated by Windows devices,” Baker said in a Monday statement.

In its most recent Scroogled commercial, Microsoft attacks the Chromebook going as far as saying it’s not even a “real laptop.”  Well, “real laptop” or not, these things are selling, and selling well.

So where are the results?

Curious about how much traffic BestTechie received from Chrome OS over the past year I dove into our analytics to take a look.  According to Google Analytics, Chrome OS accounts for 0.16 percent of all BestTechie traffic since Jan 1, 2013.  This isn’t a lot by any means, especially when you compare it to other operating systems traffic in the same time period, but it is a major increase.  Since Jan 1, 2013 Windows accounted for 59.56 percent of our traffic, iOS came in at 15.73 percent, and OS X came in at 14.51 percent.

While it isn’t really surprising that iOS topped OS X in 2013, especially considering this “post PC” world we live in, get a look at percentage change numbers when compared to the same time frame in 2012.  This is really mind blowing.

Chrome OS traffic exploded 1,303.90 percent.  iOS traffic jumped 634.34 percent.  OS X traffic increased 49.51 percent.  And lastly, Windows traffic bumped up 108.73 percent.

This isn’t just a BestTechie trend either, John Gruber over at Daring Fireball noted that for the first time that he has noticed iOS has surpassed OS X on his site.  He’s also seen 0.08 percent of his traffic come from Chrome OS (keep in mind he writes mostly about Apple and other related topics).  Additionally, according to StatCounter, while Chrome OS’s web traffic numbers are still low compared to other operating systems, they did seem to see a spike in December, going from around 0.04 to 0.1 percent worldwide, and from 0.14 to 0.34 in the United States.

Should Microsoft worry?  Well, yes, especially if this Chromebook trend continues for another few quarters.  Then the software giant will really be Scroogled.


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